Elements for Proving a Cause of action in Tort for Negligence

California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

CACI 400. Negligence – Essential Factual Elements:

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] was harmed by [name of defendant]’s negligence. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of defendant] was negligent;

2. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

3. That [name of defendant]’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

Civil Code section 1714(a) provides, in part: “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.” This statute is the foundation of negligence law in California. (Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 111- 112 [70 Cal.Rptr. 97, 443 P.2d 561].)

The basic elements of a negligence action are: (1) The defendant had a legal duty to conform to a standard of conduct to protect the plaintiff, (2) the defendant failed to meet this standard of conduct, (3) the defendant’s failure was the proximate or legal cause of the resulting injury, and (4) the plaintiff was damaged. (Ladd v. County of San Mateo (1996) 12 Cal.4th 913, 917 [50 Cal.Rptr.2d 309, 911 P.2d 496]; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 673 [25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207].)

Restatement Second of Torts, section 328A, provides: In an action for negligence the plaintiff has the burden of proving:

(a) facts which give rise to a legal duty on the part of the defendant to conform to the standard of conduct established by law for the protection of the plaintiff,

(b) failure of the defendant to conform to the standard of conduct,

(c) that such failure is a legal cause of the harm suffered by the plaintiff, and

(d) that the plaintiff has in fact suffered harm of a kind legally compensable by damages.

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